William Bradford

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Literary works

The front page of the Bradford journal
William Bradford's most well-known work by far is Of Plymouth Plantation. It was a detailed history in manuscript form about the founding of the Plymouth colony and the lives of the colonists from 1621 to 1646.[46] It is a common misconception that the manuscript was actually Bradford's journal. Rather, it was a retrospective account of his recollections and observations, written in the form of two books. The first book was written in 1630; the second was never finished, but "between 1646 and 1650, he brought the account of the colony's struggles and achievements through the year 1646."[47] As Walter P. Wenska states, "Bradford writes most of his history out of his nostalgia, long after the decline of Pilgrim fervor and commitment had become apparent. Both the early annals which express his confidence in the Pilgrim mission and the later annals, some of which reveal his dismay and disappointment, were written at about the same time."[46] In Of Plymouth Plantation, Bradford drew deep parallels between everyday life and the events of the Bible. As Philip Gould writes, "Bradford hoped to demonstrate the workings of divine providence for the edification of future generations."[47] Despite the fact that the manuscript was not published until 1656, the year before his death, it was well received by his near contemporaries. In 1888 Charles F. Richardson referred to Bradford as a "forerunner of literature" and "a story-teller of considerable power;" Moses Coit Tyler called him "the father of American history."[48] Many American authors have cited the manuscript in their works; for example, Cotton Mather referenced it in Magnalia Christi Americana and Thomas Prince referred to it in A Chronological History of New-England in the Form of Annals. Even today it is considered a valuable piece of American literature, included in anthologies and studied in literature and history classes. It has been called "'an...
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